Today, read Matthew 5.
Today we began reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This sermon will take us through the next two chapters of Matthew, so we’ll read them on Monday and Tuesday next week. In this chapter Jesus began teaching his disciples (v. 1) how he expected them to live. Every thought in this chapter is worthy of our careful consideration and application as followers of Christ. But since this is just a devotional, a few thoughts will have to suffice.
First, we need to see what Jesus said in verse 20: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is a hard saying! The Pharisees and teachers of the law were scrupulous about obedience to God’s law. Yet Christ clearly taught that they would not enter the kingdom of heave and neither would anyone else unless they could be more righteous than these religious Jewish men. But before Christ told us that we had to do better than the Pharisees, he said this in verse 17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Christ perfectly kept the law of God. Theologians call this his “active obedience.” When you trusted Christ to save you, God credited you with the righteousness of Christ. That means, in God’s mind, you fulfilled the law of God perfectly–not because you actually have fulfilled it but because he credited Christ’s obedience to the law to us by faith.
Nevertheless, that does not mean that obedience is unimportant. No, Jesus said further, “whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” in verse 19b. This is where the new life we have by the Holy Spirit comes into play. Although we don’t (and can’t) obey God’s law to earn righteousness in his sight, once we’re in Christ, we want to become righteous like Christ in our daily lives. So we have a new desire to obey Christ’s words because of his grace to us in salvation.
So, to close out today’s devotional, Consider Christ’s words in verse 43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Is there anyone in your life who seems to be out to get you? Is there a person who wants the worst for you, who is always trying to make you look bad and see you defeated? Our natural instincts is to pay that person back in kind; Jesus commanded us as his followers to love them–that is to seek their good. He commanded us to pray for them. This is not praying for God’s judgment but for their salvation, growth, and prosperity. Why should we do this? Verse 45: “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” When we seek the good of those who want to harm us, we are acting like God who gave us new spiritual life through the Holy Spirit. God is kind to the people who hate him. He waters their crops just as he does the crops of the righteous. Although justice demands that someday he punishes his haters for their sin, he is gracious and kind to them in the meantime.
So, who comes to mind when you think of the word “enemy?” Is it a person who has hurt you or is trying to hurt you? Is it a group of people who hold differing beliefs than you do and are willing persecute you over those differences?
Have you prayed for them recently? Today?